Early-warning system information

The principal aim of the European early-warning system (EWS) in the framework of the EU 1997 Joint Action on New Synthetic Drugs (87) is the rapid collection, analysis and exchange of information on new synthetic drugs as soon as they appear on the European drug scene. The EWS comes under the auspices of the EMCDDA through the Reitox network, and operates in close cooperation with Europol, which provides relevant law enforcement information through its network of national units (ENUs).

In 2004, the EMCDDA was notified by Member States of six new synthetic drugs, bringing the total number of monitored substances to more than 25. These include ring-substituted phenethylamines (mostly from the 2C group as well as TMA-2, 4-MTA, PMMA, etc.), tryptamines (such as DMT, AMT, DIPT and various derivatives) and piperazines (including BZP, mCPP). Information on various other substances, including some cathinones (such as substituted pyrrolidines), was also collected and exchanged. However, the European Commission and the European Council were not asked to sanction a risk assessment of any new substance because there was insufficient evidence of individual/public health or social risks.

Ketamine and GHB, both of which underwent risk assessment in 2000, continue to be monitored through the EWS. Although there are indications that use of these two substances in recreational settings could spread significantly, the available evidence is not yet sufficient to quantify prevalence or identify trends at EU level.

Ketamine identifications were reported from Belgium, Denmark, Greece, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Norway. Most of the seizures were of white powder, but France and the United Kingdom also reported seizures/acquisitions of ketamine in liquid form. The highest numbers of detections in body fluids and specimens were reported by Sweden and Norway (51 and 30 respectively), but neither country distinguished between medical and illegal use.

GHB identifications, including seizures of its precursors GBL and 1,4-BD (chemicals that are commercially widely available), were reported from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom and Norway. GHB has been seized in both powder and liquid form.

In the last two months of 2004, several cases of intoxication due to consumption of cocaine adulterated with relatively high doses of atropine (88) were reported in Belgium, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. As soon as the risk of combined cocaine/atropine intoxication became apparent, the EMCDDA issued an alert to the EWS partners, advising them to inform their networks and, in particular, the relevant health authorities on the signs of cocaine/atropine intoxication so that it can be diagnosed at an early stage. As a result, several Member States also chose to release early warnings to their networks or public heath authorities.

medicinal productson new psychoactive substances.In May 2005, the EWS was further strengthened through a Council Decision (2005/387/JHA) that replaced the 1997 Joint Action. The Council Decision extends the scope of action to all new psychoactive substances (both narcotic drugs and synthetic drugs). In addition, the mechanism allows for the inclusion of in the exchange of information


(87) The 1997 Joint Action concerning the information exchange, risk assessment and the control of new synthetic drugs (OJ L 167, 25.06.1997) defines new synthetic drugs as ‘synthetic drugs that are not currently listed in any of the Schedules to the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which pose a comparable serious threat to public health as the substances listed in Schedules I or II thereto, and which have a limited therapeutic value’. It relates to end products as distinct from precursors.

(88) Atropine, an anticholinergic agent, is a naturally occurring alkaloid of Atropa belladonna. Severe intoxication may be fatal.